58 VEKDICT OX INDIA
* Eighteen ?*
cYes. Parents, grand-parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters,
cousins, to say nothing of three babies howling their heads off.
And he has to have absolute quiet."
'Why don't you get rid of them ?'
4 We "can't. If we asked even one of them to go they'd take the
boy away, and he'd be dead before the morning. The poor little
<?hap will probably die anyway, with all that uproar/
How is it suggested that we should tackle problems like that ?
We did not invent the Hindu joint-family system, and if we were
.suspected of attempting to undermine it, the heavens would fall.
[ Families of twenty or more living under one roof are common in
' India. 'This is the agnatic unit which Hindu law constantly seeks
to uphold, the father, mother, son and grandson, together with
the corresponding womenfolk, joint in food, worship, and estate.'1
And joint, it must be added, in, expeditions to hospital.
When I was well enough to be wheeled about in a chair I used
to explore the quarters of the other patients. Many of the rooms
^ were miniature Bedlams. Every inch of floor space was occupied
,by some member of the family, from aged crones to screaming
babies. In one corner of the room somebody would be cooking
rice, in another somebody else would be washing a saree. In
the centre lay the poor patient* weary, distracted, breathing a
rich assortment of germs. It seemed somewhat ironic when the
nurse came in, pushed her way through the crowd, and dipped
her thermometer in antiseptic before putting it in the patient's
People were dropping in to see me. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs
». .but now I look back on it, never an c Indian.'
The Muslims are in a great majority in the North-West Frontier.
For the first time I began to realize something of the intensity of
communal feeling. Up till now it had seemed an academic
problem, something that one had read about in books ; it suddenly
•*Zfwfttf, by T. A. Raman (Oxford University Press),,